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Tulsa World

Suits mounting against cockfighting law

Three more lawsuits have been filed, and an attorney says more are on the way.

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Three additional lawsuits have been filed in an attempt by game fowl breeders to overturn the state's new law making cockfighting a felony, and their attorney indicated that more are in the works.

The three latest filings in Muskogee, Adair and Sequoyah counties are identical to an earlier one in McCurtain County. All seek an injunction against the enforcement of the law.

The state of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the sheriffs and district attorneys for each of the counties are named as defendants in the lawsuits.

Different groups of game fowl breeders are listed as plaintiffs in each suit.

A temporary restraining order is in effect in the McCurtain County case, which includes the other two counties -- Choctaw and Pushmataha -- in that judicial district.

A hearing on the temporary injunction requested by Tulsa attorney Larry Oliver, who represents those seeking to block enforcement of the law against cockfighting, is scheduled for Monday in Idabel before District Judge Willard Driesel.

A hearing on the requested injunction in Muskogee County is scheduled Dec. 10, and a hearing has been set for Dec. 14 in Sequoyah County.

Oliver declined to be specific when asked why the latest lawsuits were filed.

"We wanted these judges up here to rule on this," he said.

"I wouldn't be surprised," Oliver said when asked whether additional lawsuits will be filed.

He indicated that there will be other filings in southeastern and southwestern Oklahoma counties where popular support for cockfighting is the greatest in Oklahoma.

The plaintiffs in each suit allege that the new law, which went into effect Nov. 8 after the returns on State Question 687 were certified, is too vague, too broad, deprives them of property without just compensation, interferes with interstate commerce and travel and infringes on their economic rights.

Janet Halliburton, the attorney for the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting, was highly critical of the latest legal move by the game fowl breeders, calling it a delaying tactic.

"The people of Oklahoma have spoken loud and clear by passing State Question 687," she said. "This is a ridiculous waste of court resources."

She said that regardless of the temporary restraining orders issued in each of the lawsuits, cockfighting "still is a violation of the law" with a three-year statute of limitations.

"They would be well-advised not to be involved in cockfighting."

Participating in cockfights, staging the events or encouraging cockfighting are felonies punishable by as much as 10 years in prison.

Oliver said 200 to 300 spectators often attend cockfights -- a misdemeanor under the new law.

"Is there a county jail in Oklahoma that would hold 300 people?" he asked.